By Osa Amadi
You’ve been on radio and TV for 10 years now as a broadcaster. What would you say you’ve achieved both for yourself and for the society?
I could be said to be what people call pako in the local parlance. That is someone from a poor family. I came from a polygamous home. My father was a staff sergeant in the Nigerian Army. Being first child from the first wife of this polygamous family came with a lot of responsibilities and problems. But those challenges probably equipped me for the future and helped to get me where I am today.
First I worked as a PR Manager to Ascott Agencies, a cosmetic company, from where I resigned and started my own organisation. What have I achieved? Well, I thank God today that I’ve been able to take Na So I See Am, the debut radio and TV program of our organisation, from one radio station initially to different stations like Bon FM, Ray Power and other radio stations.
Some of the radio stations refused to take our Pidgin English programmes. Stations like MITV and Star FM accepted us. That time we had up to 12 clients who were interested in placing advert on our programmes. Well, when we went on air those clients came in and we made good money, by God’s grace.
Today, I live in my own house in a choice area of Lagos. We also kind of opened the eyes of many clients who thought they had to have lots of money to advertise on radio. We did a lot for SLOT, the cell phone company which has become so popular today. I was the one who made SLOT realise he could reach millions of people through radio with just a lean budget. He took our advice. You can see where SLOT is today.
Then, we also took Na So I See Am to TV, and Embassy Pharmacy and Chemicals Limited took over the sponsorship of the program. Now many companies want to come into Na So I See Am.
Although we don’t criticize government, we suggest to it things that will serve the interest of the masses best because we are close to the ordinary people of the society. We also use our programmes to tell the people the truth that they too have duties and roles to play in nation building and their own welfare.
When we started this English programm, it was with the intention to reach the grassroots of the people. Today, we are coming out with Village Television in an effort to expand that relationship with the ordinary people. And by special grace of God we are going to be buying airtime on Star Times or GoTV. So Village TV will be one of the “staple food items” from the stable of T& P Marketers.
We have also used our platforms to promote and preserve our African cultures and values. Pidgin English is essentially an African language. It is a language which has solved the problems posed by multi-ethnic languages in Africa. We have contributed a lot to the development of this unifying language. Today, when I listen to other broadcasters I hear them use many of the Pidgin words I coined and used in our radio and TV programmes. A lot of my ideas are very visible in their programming. For us these are no mean achievements.
Ten years in the life of a career is just like a cradle. What plans do you have for yourself and for your organisation?
We have Orisirisi Obe on NTA Ibadan, Yaranmenyangobe on NTA Kaduna, Na So I See Am in Lagos, and many other radio programms. My desire is that my vision does not die with me. Anyone whose vision died after he died has not achieved anything. And the best vehicle to carry and sustain a man’s vision and ideas is not machines, but men – human beings.
Human beings remain the best capital. That is why we invest a lot in human development through education. Many of our staff members who started with us with little or no education have since gone back to school and today they are graduates. These are the people that will carry on with the legacy we will be leaving behind we pass on.
The qualities of radio and TV programmes have dropped in recent years. How do you intend to raise the aesthetic quality of your program in order to sustain the interest of your audience?
That observation about the prevailing qualities of radio and TV programmes is correct. We have a programming policy of creating programmes that touch the hearts of people; programmes that aim to solve people’s problems and bind their wounds. We also try to educate and entertain people in most creative ways possible. You can only achieve all these by good thinking. When you think well, you produce well. Remember, “Good thinking, good product,” says a Toyota Motor advert.
The problem producers of those “empty’ or “washed out” programmes have is either they are not creative enough in the first place, or they don’t think very deeply about the programme they are creating. But at T & P, we know our onions thoroughly. We are both highly creative and think very deeply about our concepts before we roll them out. And so the outcome, as you can see, speaks for itself.
Nigeria is at a crossroad now – politically, economically, socially, etc.. How do you think the government of Buhari and APC should relate with the media as well as work to save Nigeria?
The power of the media – newspaper, radio, TV, and now the Internet – is enormous. It can be said that the media has an atomic bomb in its hands. We all saw that power played out in the last general election that produced the new president. Government that gags or hunts the media always have problems, and the media hardly support un-performing government – remember Ken Saro-Wiwa, Dele Giwa, etc.
War with the media is an unwinnable war, no matter how long it takes. So I’d advise Buhari to do all he has promised Nigerians and also allow the media to do its own work. That way, he will succeed. The media itself should also be fair in reporting and interpreting events in Nigeria. What you call your dog is what it answers, and that will be what others call it too.
You are from Cross River state, an oil producing state. Do you think that allocations to your state is equitable compared to what it gives to the nation?
Yes, I am from Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River State and I can tell you that Cross River’s allocation is not commensurate with what it gives to the nation in terms of oil. In fact, no allocation to any oil producing state in Nigeria is equitable. But what I want to tell Buhari is that there is gold in Cross River state apart from oil. That gold is tourism.
With proper investment in tourism, lasting peace and security of life and property in Nigeria, Obudu Cattle Ranch will be a huge source of sustainable wealth to Nigeria. It is a pure act of God that a real performer, Ben Ayade, is now the governor of Cross River. I believe that Cross River and the entire nation stand to reap huge economic benefits if Buhari and Ayade work in concert in Cross River.
You’ve had a stinct in music. What is your assessment of the Nigerian pop music scene today? All sound and fury without sense. No philosophy, no meaning. Art, especially music, ought to address the problems of society. Majority of what you call Nigerian pop music today are compounding the problems of Nigeria. It’s sad.